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From the Gonzo

. . . somewhere near the event horizon.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Close encounters of the asteroid kind

Apophis, the asteroid with a slim chance of impacting the Earth in 2036 (I blogged about it here), will make history in 2029, regardless of whether it hits Earth or not.

On Friday April 13, 2029 the asteroid will approach Earth and pass within 30,000 km (18,600 miles). That's really close, really, really close. It will miss Earth but will provide skywatchers with a show unparalleled in recorded history.

At a mere 320 meters wide the asteroid will glide across the 2029 night sky at about magnitude 3. For comparison here are some common objects and their apparent magnitude (Note: the lower the number the brighter the object appears to the naked eye).

Sun: -26.73
Mars: -2.8
Brightest Star (Sirius): -1.5
Faintest stars visible in an urban neighborhood: +3
Faintest stars visible to the naked eye: +6

Unfortunately, the celestial show will not be visible in North America. Traveling to Africa, Europe or Asia will reveal Apophis to the naked eye that night, however.

It should glide across the night sky faster than any satellite and be easily visible, even through city lights.

This is, all in all, pretty rare. Objects the size of Apophis make close approaches about once every 1,000 years.

Binoculars and telescopes will not assist much in viewing on that day in 2029, all but the most powerful ground-based telescopes will reveal only a starlike point of light.

I don't know about you but I'm going to be there for it, start booking your flights now. I was thinking African safari with a side of asteroid spotting.

Related Post: Apophis collision more likely

Related Links/Addtional Resources:
NASA imagery of comets and asteroids
NASA Near Earth Object Program
Wikipedia: Apophis

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